Shin-Chan, Get Backers, and Nadesico.
a semi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Hi all, welcome back to Anime Talk! This week's column features some great shows worth digging into with some classics and new releases that'll help run that electric bill up once the summer hits. From Get Backers and Nadesico to Shuffle and xxxHolic there's plenty going on right now in the anime world. While the flood of releases hasn't been what it once was, several new series have been announced recently that have us excited. With shows like Claymore, D. Gray Man, Gurren-Lagann, and the second season of Gunslinger Girl just around the corner there's plenty to look forward to.
As always WTK joins us with some money saving bargains and this week we have a spotlight from DVD Talk's very own reviewer Francis Rizzo III. It's actually a semi-full column this time around so let's get to it!
Super Robot Wars continues with volume six, and the action is just as fast and intense and the previous few volumes. With the Hagwane through the defenses in Earth orbit, the super-ship starts for its real objective: The Divine Crusaders' headquarters on the heavily fortified Aidoneus Island. It won't be an easy battle by any measure. Even though the plot is paper thin and the collection of supporting characters grows with every volume this is still a fun action-packed mecha show.
Originally released over 10 volumes in 2004-05, The Get Backers is a fun and light buddy show that has a good amount of action and fighting with just the right dash of humor. The show revolves around Ban and Ginji, a couple of guys who run a business retrieving stolen or lost objects. Once they take on a job, these goofy guys always recover the object they are sent after. Part of the reason for this amazing success rate is that both members of the team have superpowers. Ginji is a human electric eel, who can generate a powerful electric charge with his hands, and Ban has a 'jag-on' the ability to create a powerful illusion, indistinguishable from reality, for up to a minute. For Otaku who haven't picked up the series yet, this complete series set, containing both seasons of the show, is the way to go. With a very reasonable price point and nice packaging this is a set worth picking up.
As we Otaku know, anime isn't a genre itself, but rather an encompassing term that several genres fall under. There are mecha shows, and magical girl programs and fighting series etc. etc. John has seen a lot of anime over the years (some would say too much) and has enjoyed shows of all types, but Fantastic Children took him by surprise. It's not an easily categorized program and feels different than most other anime. This series about a strange group of children who seem to be traveling forward through time tells an interesting tale that has a lot of surprises. The series is quite enjoyable, and a lot of that has to do with the unique nature of the show. Originally released as individual volumes in 2006, the entire series has now been collected in one 6-disc case.
With the second volume of Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time viewers are treated to three whole episodes of the series, without an increase in price. The MSRP of $30 is still a hefty price to pay for three episodes, no dub track and almost no extras but it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully Bandai-Visual will continue to with this trend and start releasing some reasonably priced anime. This volume of the show is solid, though it is still establishing the characters and getting the plot rolling. Akane gets another Guardian, her friend Tenma learns more about his powers, and the city Beyond the Flow of Time becomes endangered.
In volume three of Shuffle the plot starts to thicken, (well...as thick as a harem show ever gets) and some problems crop of for poor Rin that don't have easy solutions. When he gets lost with Sai, he says some things that will come back to haunt him, but he has it easy compared to Mayumi who has to wait tables in a mini-skirt with no underwear. With a good amount of comedy, a dollop of fan service, and an interesting plot twist or two, this light show is a lot of fun to watch.
If classic anime is your thing and you enjoy taking retro trips to series of decades past then Martian Successor Nadesico is one you'll want to look out for. This science fiction series is rich with deep characters and a fun concept. In many ways it pays homage to sci-fi shows of the past with giant mecha battles, an alien threat, and young pilots who have to save the human race. The great part about Nadesico is that it never feels tired or becomes cliché; it stays fresh the whole way through. Sure the ending may not satisfy in quite the way that one would hope but in this case it's the journey and ultimately the entire franchise that makes this outing worth while.
Do you like insane comedy anime? If you do then Ramen Fighter Miki will be right up your alley. Taking place almost entirely in a shopping arcade, Ramen Fighter Miki stars a young girl named Miki (I know, I know, shocking) who works for her family's noodle stand. She has a rivalry with the baker's daughter across the way and the two fight constantly. Rounding out the cast is a well-rounded friend of Miki and an old adversary whom she doesn't remember. At every turn Miki and company are tearing apart the arcade and causing a ruckus. The brand of humor is out there and lovers of material such as Excel Saga will undoubtedly have their funny bone tickled.
The second volume if xxxHolic has come along so all of you CLAMP fans can rejoice! Yuko, Watanuke, and company are back to provide more spiritual services to the unsuspecting and undeserving public. The first installment of the series had a lot of great character building moments as the story was set and the pieces were slowly put together. Unfortunately the second volume becomes a tad episodic as the formula takes hold and the story isn't allowed to develop as much as we had expected. This show still offers a lot of CLAMP goodness and apart from being formulaic the writing is superb. We'll see if future volumes hold up and exactly how things will turn out for poor Watanuke.
Black Blood Brothers comes to a close with its third volume and sadly it's over way too quickly. This enjoyable little romp through twisted vampire lore was a fun ride while it lasted but that's just the problem; it didn’t. This is a show that deserved to be a full season but with the small selection of episodes the story isn't fully allowed to come to fruition. It almost feels as though we're catching Jiro and his brother in the middle of an adventure and we've only seen half of the picture. I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing because it keeps the show from getting too droll but it also leaves out some room for development that the franchise could have used.
by Francis Rizzo III
The path to where "Shin Chan" is today is one of the more unusual amongst its [adult swim] brethren, starting over a decade ago in Japan as a cheeky family comedy, before a few abortive attempts to dub it as a kids show. Then Funimation got the idea to take the animation and go in an entirely different direction, recasting it as a surreal adult-themed comedy, essentially a much more cohesive application of the What's Up Tiger Lily? Concept.
The star of the show is the titular Shin Chan, an odd little 6-year-old with an obsession with his own backside, an aggressive personality, a love for superhero Action Bastard and some weird thoughts about how the world works. His traditional family, with mom Mitzy, Dad Hiro and little sister Hima, is a boiling cauldron of resentment, frustration and oddness, though they still love each other (sorta.) his school life brings more friends and freaks into his life, including uptight conservative Georgie and Penny, whose home life is far from storybook.
Each episode is broken up into a trio of short adventures, which can be connected, but most of the time, they are purely random. That's for the best, as the show's sense of humor, which is heavy on bodily function comedy, doesn't lend itself to traditional storytelling, and works best in smaller doses. When it does go long-form, like an extended arc that sees Shin blow up his house, it can drag a bit, making you wish for something a bit different. There's a span of several full episodes focused on the family adjusting to their craptastic new apartment, which starts to feel like any old sitcom, thanks to the consistent setting, but the show comes back strong before the season ends, with an odd trip to a spa for Hiro and Shin.
The best stories though are the quick and senseless, which lets Shin make odd observations and show his ass as he pleases. In translating the show to America, the writers liberally sprinkled pop-culture references and disturbingly dark jokes that somehow still jab despite years of hearing kids mouth off on shows like "South Park." Perhaps it's seeing a very American sense of humor with a very Japanese art style, not to mention in the guise of a sitcom family, that makes it fresh. But while much of the comedy comes from the way the new writers fit jokes into the pre-existing material, some of it can be credited to the original creators, as the art style and anime conventions are played for laughs frequently, while the super-creepy Happiness Bunny story is only possible thanks to the strange animation from Japan.
The 13 episodes in Season One have a weird mix of comedic sensibility, as the first six, which feature comic-book writers Evan Dworkin and Sarah Dyer as punch-up writers, working with the staff, have a pace that's more chaotic than later episodes, which are more traditional sitcom-style comedy, but with an off-kilter flavor. It's hard to compare a segment like "The Brotherhood of the Groveling Allowance," which has the legendary Trust Dance of the Manly Brotherhood of Men, with more down-to-earth bits like Mitzy's attempt to get Shin to school in "A Bicycle Built for Poo." But there are plenty of bits in the more traditional stories that will have you laughing, as they stand in harsh contrast with the normal stuff going on.
On a side note, the ending credits song is one of the catchiest pop songs I've ever heard. Also, the language is still censored here, so curses are bleeped.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is your standard TV comedy presentation, with clean dialogue and good separation from the strong music, but there's nothing special about it, as everything is right down the middle.
Disc Two continues the bonus features with "From the Bowels of the Booth," an 11-minute collection of edited-out material, including alternate takes, background dialogue and bloopers. It moves very fast, and has some very funny line readings. Funimation smart included an original episode of the Japanese series, "Battle: Encho-man!," allowing viewers to see how different the two series are. This segment, which follows Principal Ench's superhero persona, is offered with and without subtitles, and shows how much the new writers add to the show. There's also some original storyboard, though their value is limited, so they are really more of a curiosity, as you get to see how anime is sketched out.
Cast audition clips for 13 of the characters are included, though only with audio, allowing you to hear the first takes on each role. There's some goofy stuff happening as they try out, so it's definitely worth a listen. It would have been nice to hear other actors' attempts though, to see what could have been.
The disc wraps with a bunch of Funimation trailers, including one for "Shin Chan."
The Bottom Line
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